Shelby City African American Cemetery November 2014 Update
As of November 20, 2014, the volunteers at the Shelby City African American Cemetery have identified 166 names of those buried in this historic plot. These include the names of people who perished after 1911 (when death certificates first became required in Kentucky) and the names gathered from headstones. There may be more than 200 other people who are buried in unmarked graves or in graves marked only with fieldstone markers.
The use of ground-penetrating radar at the site by Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc. (CRAI) in Lexington will ultimately determine the total number of burials in the cemetery. This company, which has generously donated its services and professional advice to this project, started its scan of the property on September 21, 2014. Its archaeologists allowed EKU Anthropology students and other volunteers to assist in the scanning. So they provided a wonderful opportunity for everyone present to take part in the data collection. They were able to confirm reports from the residents along Short Acres Road that part of the cemetery does in fact extend to the south side of the road. This area was never acknowledged by deeds to be part of the cemetery, but plans are now underway to include it.
Volunteers on this project have now logged in almost 1500 hours of work on the cleanup phase alone. Many, many more hours of volunteer time have been spent on the research to uncover the death certificates, interview community members, determine the families’ histories and migration patterns out of Kentucky, and to set up free databases that record this information.
When EKU classes resumed in August, many volunteers from the EKU Richmond Campus joined in to help the local volunteers. Also many Centre College students have given their time to the project. In particular, students from EKU’s Alpha Phi Omega group and members from Centre’s Bonner and New Horizons Scholarship Programs have consistently assisted in the cleanup. With their tremendous help, we have nearly finished with the cleanup phase of the largest pieces of debris and trash in the cemetery!
The next phase of the cleanup will include a more careful examination of the top 3 to 4 inches of topsoil in the cemetery to determine the location of more headstone and fieldstone markers of graves. This phase will also include more searching for and identification of artifacts that have been left as memorials at the headstones.
In November 2014, the volunteers were successful in forming a nonprofit limited liability company called the Central Kentucky African American Cemetery Association LLC, whose mission is to help ensure that other neglected and abandoned cemeteries are also cleaned up and restored. Special attention will be paid in the beginning to cemeteries in Boyle and Lincoln Counties. Additional work on a historical marker, signage, and preparation of instructional materials will be continued at the Shelby City African American Cemetery. Additional radar scanning will also be scheduled. This work is being sponsored as part of the Regional Stewardship CARES Grant that the group received in July from EKU’s Center for Appalachian Regional Engagement and Stewardship (CARES) and the Office of University Programs.
Published on November 20, 2014